Last year at this time, I was preparing for senior photos and finalizing details about selecting a college and absorbing the reality of Madison’s last first day of high school. Before I knew it, we were planning a graduation party. Last week, we moved her into her dorm and she started classes this week. As much as I tried to offer advice along the way, I don’t know how much she heard amidst the noise of all the other things happening in her life. So I’m compiling some thoughts here and hope she’ll take them to heart.
To our new adult,
Congrats on starting college! With each minute and hour in your home on campus, you are penning a new chapter in your life. But unlike getting your driver’s license or your first job, this will be the first time you’re continually faced with making all your own decisions… by yourself. We aren’t under the same roof nor are we there to protect you when you wake up each morning to face the world. But I’m not worried. We’ve raised you to have a good head on your shoulders and I’m confident that you’ll make the right decisions. With that said, there are several things you’ll need to remember and I thought it might be helpful to have them all in one place.
- First and foremost, college is your job. You’re there to learn and prepare yourself for the next chapter. Don’t just do what the professors expect of you, do more.
- Preparing for the next chapter means more than just book smarts and professional training. It also means learning to deal with people, juggling responsibilities and prioritizing activities.
- College is also about opportunities that you can take advantage of. Whether it’s joining marching band, student government or some club, pledging Greek life, attending sporting events, listening to visiting artists or simply meeting people then do it. Do something. Try many things.
- Connect and network. Get to know people because networking opens doors that may not otherwise open.
- Professors have ever-growing networks and can also offer recommendations. Make a name for yourself both inside and outside the classroom.
- Join clubs and organizations that support your major in some way. Once again, it can open doors.
- Also join clubs and organizations that have nothing to do with your major. Being a well-rounded person is very important.
- Be curious. Ask questions about people, lessons, places, foods, whatever. Expand your life by learning about other things.
- Remember people’s names and tidbits about them that may seem inconsequential. Whether it’s a detail about some recipe their mom makes that they miss, their favorite sports or film franchises, or a random thing that they mentioned in passing, being able to recall that in a future conversation will help you stand out from others.
- Be a connector. Offering recommendations or providing introductions may not offer you anything in the short term, but most people remember those who help open doors. Some of those people will try to find ways to return the favor.
- You are bound to cross paths with people who suck. They may cheat, take shortcuts, claim credit for something that someone else did or take advantage of you or others. It will happen, but don’t let bad characters define you or drag you down. Learn something from those experiences and find ways to be prepared for similar situations in the future.
- Try new foods. You’ll engage with a lot of new people so learn about the foods they love and try them. There’s no better way to expand your palate than at the recommendation of another person.
- Take guidance, suggestions, advice or criticism with grace and appreciation. Whether someone is critiquing your performance or work, recommending a place with awesome tea or telling you there’s a piece of spinach in your teeth, listen with an open mind then thank them. Learning this skill is a lifelong journey. The sooner you realize people care enough to tell you, the quicker you’ll be able to take advantage of their input.
- If you get a bad grade or fail at something, ask questions to figure out why then learn how you can improve and move forward.
- Be mindful and safe. I fear that I didn’t prepare you for this as well as I should have. Sadly, some people will try to take advantage of you physically. Someone may try to get you drunk first, someone else may simply over muscle you. Sadly, it happens and I hope it never happens to you. Be alert and always have a friend with you. If you are going to study with someone of the opposite sex, make sure you are in a public place or with other people.
- Don’t miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It’s okay to spend money at this time in your life. It won’t be long before you have a whole bunch of expenses that will prevent you from it.
- Don’t be frivolous with your money. Yes, it’s okay to spend on some things but the well will eventually run dry if you aren’t careful. Learn money management. It’s a skill you’ll appreciate once you’re out on your own.
- Keep a positive attitude. Negativity is a breeding ground for more negativity. Always find something positive in every situation.
- Finally, college is the last opportunity to live without all the responsibilities of being an adult. Don’t forget to have fun!
I’m proud of the adult that you’ve become and am confident that you’ll successfully navigate your way along this journey. Enjoy your college years because they’re lifechanging in all the right ways.
P.S. Please don’t forget to send pictures!